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The ’90s Revisited – Justice League America Annual #6

90s_revisited

justice_league_america_annual_006Maximum Eclipse

Dark Design: Dan Jurgens
Writer: Dan Mishkin
Penciler: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Jose Marza, Jr.
Letterer: Clem Robins
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with an introduction to Eclipso and his plotting (aka "monologuing") before cutting to a bickering Justice League (in 2022, seems this one’s the "Bwa-Ha-Ha!" JL). Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, Maxima, Bloodwynd…and loosely, apparently, Superman. The group (along with Bruce Gordon) awaits Superman’s arrival on his request, and is joined by Metamorpho. Superman attempts to recruit Wonder Woman, but she turns him down for reasons. Elsewhere, Eclipso takes control of a jewelry store security guard that leads to Wonder Woman deciding she cannot forego helping the League.

The League bickers some more, while Ice and Maxima each have reactions to Wonder Woman’s presence regarding Superman. Maxima and Metamorpho wind up storming off, leaving the rest of the group to deal with things. Maxima is quickly met by the Eclipsed Starman, who hands her a Black Diamond. The angry Leaguer is immediately possessed by Eclipso, and used to go on a super-powered rampage. This splits the League, with Blue Beetle left at HQ to work on a solar device with Gordon and the cooled-off/returned Metamorpho, while the rest set out to deal with the super-powered threat. There’s a prolonged confrontation with the Eclipsed Maxima, while Eclipso seems to show up "in person" at HQ to attempt to kill Beetle. Lots of fighting, Eclipso (via Maxima’s psychic abilities) gets temporary hold of Wonder Woman, while Beetle trashes HQ evading and fighting Eclipso. In the end, Wonder Woman is freed of Eclipso, but the villain maintains control of Maxima…and the League returns ‘home’ to find Blue Beetle missing.

In 2022, I feel like these annuals keep taking me off-guard in their length and density. Any one of these annuals has the "feel" of at least a couple–if not SEVERAL–modern comics’ issues. Broken record that I am, that seems fitting, as each title in the even had a single (annual) issue participating, where present-day these WOULD all be at least 2-3 issue miniseries!

This issue felt at once jam-packed and yet surfacey to me. While very AWARE OF this incarnation of JLA, I’m not nearly as familiar with it as I perhaps ought to be; and this is an issue I definitely had never read before. On the whole, I enjoyed reading through this and getting an action-packed adventure…it’s certainly plenty in one issue to "justify itself" to me.

The writing doesn’t blow me away, but definitely comes off as rather familiar (if not cliché) in the presentation of the characters. This almost feels trope-y to me, with the characters a slight step above caricatures or such. I recall Ice having a crush on Superman, and the Guy/Ice dynamic, but don’t think I’d recalled stuff being so blatant or melodramatic. At the same time, that’s also something to be said for "thought bubbles" still being a part of comics 30 years ago where they’re rarely present these days.

I liked the art overall in this issue, and was rather surprised when I actually took in the credits to write this post–Dave Cockrum. THE Dave Cockrum? I tend to think of him and the X-Men…not so much anything for DC. That’s another thing for being in 2022 and reading these, though: I’m looking back at comics from THIRTY. YEARS. AGO. Of course creators like Cockrum were still around THEN!

The opening scene of Eclipso reads like the start of any particular story to me, which works well here. It’s primarily introduction and context to set the issue up, but has expected vague references to place this as part of a continuing thing. Though we don’t get some definitive conclusion/ending, overall this seems to stand on its own. Having read other "Eclipso Annuals" recently, I have a fuller context here…but this reads more like picking up the start of a story amidst an ongoing series than picking up a middle chapter of some event series.

I can’t speak much to this issue’s place within the main title, but taken alone I’d say if you’re a fan of (or curious about) this era of JLA, this is another issue that’s likely at least worth grabbing from a bargain bin and reading.

I’m "curious" where the story goes from here in terms of the ‘event’ and have some vague recollections from reading other issues back in the ’90s, at least regarding Maxima.

The issue itself ends with a "To Be Continued" directing one to The Demon Annual #1, which was apparently on-sale the same week as this very issue…a change from the apparent "weekly" gaps between Annuals thus far.

justice_league_america_annual_006_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Superman #75

90s_revisited

superman_0075Doomsday!

Words & Pictures: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jurgens & Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25 ($2.50 Collector’s [black bagged] Edition)
Triangle #: 1993/2

This is it–probably the most important single issue of any comic book in my life…at least to me, personally. This issue has–in one form or another–influenced so much of my experience in/with/of comics, far beyond anything I could truly sum up briefly.

The cover is that iconic image–the tattered cape caught on a wood pole sticking out of the wreckage in Metropolis–that has become so symbolic of the fall of a character, and so defining of this story and the Superman character. At least to those of us who read this as a new comic, were there as the story unfolded.

The issue is itself nothing but splash pages, each page a single large image, ending with a fold-out back cover stretching to a triple-wide image.

Nearly every single page is "iconic," each page being a key image, something easily recognizable as being from this very issue. So much so that these images were used time and again for flashbacks, and capture the key "moments" of the end of the battle…and are reinterpreted to this day to place a flashback within this story.

This issue’s art–for the full pages, the sheer importance of the issue in the time, and what it was to me–is certainly the "gold standard" for Superman art, and for Jurgens‘ work on the character.

Story-wise, this is but a handful of moments, of scenes, each page having to carry stuff forward…but it certainly works. For several chapters now, the panel-count has gotten smaller, the action more intense, the story speeding up, rushing to this conclusion. And what a conclusion it is–Superman dies. I felt on this read-through like the "final punch" is earlier in the issue than I remembered and expected…but perhaps it was the way I was reading. While we get some moments of Doomsday menacing Lois and Jimmy and Cat, for me, the heart of this issue–morbid as it may be–comes in the narration after the final punch. This is some of the most "iconic" narration for me in all my years of reading comics, and resonates with me still.

Like weary boxes who have gone the distance, the combatants collide in one last, explosive effort. In the years to come, a few witnesses will tell of the power of these final punches, that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew–finally fell. For those who loved him–one who would call him husband–one who would be his pal–or those who would call him son–this is the darkest day they could ever imagine . . . And for those who served with Superman in the protection of all life–comes the shock of failure. The weight of being too late to help . . . For a city to live, a man had given his all and more . . . For this is the day that a Superman died.

The views moving around, showing us Lois and Jimmy, Martha and Jonathan Kent, Ice and Bloodwynd…we get the "in the moment" reactions as the characters all witness the final punches–in person or on tv. And then the final scene, as Lois cradles the broken Superman, and even still, his concern is the safety of others, never mind his own condition.

"Doomsday…is he…is he…"
And he hangs on just long enough to hear her assurance: "You stopped him! you saved us all! Now relax until–"

And as the final page is folded out, the image goes from her holding him, to her obvious anguish as he’s slumped over, dead.

I’m absolutely anything but impartial on this issue. Even reading it this time through, it never fails to stir me. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, it still gets to me. It seems unbelievable that it’s been that long since this issue was released. I was all of 11, a couple weeks shy of my 12th birthday. I’ve lived over 2/3 of my life SINCE this issue. This was the first truly "big event" in my experience in comics…both story-wise, and real-world. This was the first issue I encountered with any sort of "variant cover." This was the first time I saw an issue done in all full-page images, the first time I’d heard of pre-ordering comics, the first experience I had with "speculation" and such.

This issue began "the weekly habit" of comics for me, that "have to get it ASAP" mentality of each new, subsequent issue. That ongoing interest in the next chapter, what comes next, how are these characters handling stuff, etc. And this being in the heart of what I’d call the best of times, the highest quality and tightest story of the "Triangle Era," this became my gold standard for comics, what comics could be, and all that.

To this day, when I come across this in bargain bins–in any of the four printings, UPC barcode or "direct edition"–I tend to snag it. While this–like most of the other issues of the Doomsday! story–draws deeply from preceding issues and ongoing stuff…this one works pretty well alone. As you’d be interested in the issue AS "the death issue," of reading the actual death of Superman, it happens here. You witness the death, the final moments of the battle, get exposed to several key supporting characters, and can glean from context that others have fallen and it’s down to just Superman himself to take the creature down, the doing of which costs him his life.

While this is basically at best a "footnote" in the history of Superman…this is one of those issues that I think any "long term" comics person ought to (have) read. It’s still a piece of history, a part of comics history, and very few other comics’ stories or moments have or retain the impact this did.superman_0075_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #70

jusice_league_america_0070Grieving

Words, Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Edits: Ruben Diaz
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

It’s been a lotta years since I read this issue. Honestly, well longer than I’d tend to care to admit otherwise, but most of my re-readings of the "entire" Death of Superman story have been via that original collected volume, or the Roger Stern novelization, or the audio drama. And I tend to stop there–I know I’ve been through the novel several times, and the World Without a Superman/Funeral For a Friend collected volume at least a couple times…but this issue? This Justice League America "tie-in" is not included in the original edition of World Without a Superman. And though the previous issue was far more relevant to the lead-in to the main, sustained Doomsday fight, this one splits off from the core narrative focusing on Superman himself (as chronicled in the Superman-centric titles and such) and focuses more on the League, and these characters’ reactions to and ramifications from the Doomsday battle.

justice_league_america_0070_noflapOn this read-through, it was like reading the issue for the first time. When the Flash showed up, and Batman, and Hawkman, and Aquaman…despite a slight sense of deja vu in the back of my mind, it still surprised me. Looking at this issue’s cover, I remembered some loose, broad strokes–Blue Beetle in a coma, Booster’s suit destroyed, Ice devastated and Guy none to happy about her reaction–but I didn’t remember the details of the issue, the smaller moments. I remember some loose bits from some issues shortly after this–and the fact OF having READ the issues comprising Destiny’s Hand and leading to Justice League America‘s OWN 75th issue–but this is not quite the hyper-familiar territory I’d assumed it was for myself.

This issue opens with us on-site in Metropolis, Superman dead, Lois cradling his body…even an abbreviated, slightly alternate narration to the final moments of Superman #75…and into the early moments of Adventures of Superman #498, the start of the numbered chapters of Funeral For a Friend. And we’re split off, away from the Superman-family focus, and see the League reacting. Booster and Maxima were in the hospital watching over Ted–Blue Beetle. Maxima is rather matter-of-fact about Superman’s death, though she’s far from happy about it…and Booster is in a rough place–Superman’s died, his best friend is in a hospital bed in a coma, and his own suit–the entirety of/source of his powers–is shredded and likely beyond 20th century science to repair. Ice is devastated, Fire comforts her. Guy and Maxima have a go at each other…and other heroes from across the DC Universe begin to congregate, unsure of how or where to properly pay their respects, and finding comfort in the group, even as many lament the loss and wonder why it had to be Superman. The heroes don black memorial armbands with Superman’s shield, though they recognize it’s not much. And we close with Booster at Ted’s bedside, admitting that he doesn’t know WHAT he’d do if Ted dies, too.

The art is both spot-on and yet a little bit off at points for me. Stuff with Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and the other heroes seems fine, and overall this looks like the characters I’d expect, and as I would expect, visually. There are just panels–particularly one of Ice–where facial details seem just slightly off, or not as refined as I’d expect or want. Still, that stuff is rather nitpicky, and barely worth the mention. As a whole, this looks like the Justice League America I recall, and the other characters from the DCU look good and as I’d recall them for the tail-end of 1992’s publishing.

The story is very relevant, as one ought to expect, given this is written by Jurgens, the same writer of Superman, so it’s far from being an "outsider’s" version of this stuff. And given that, the differences or "alternate" takes on stuff, I totally chalk up to being intentional, holding the Justice League America continuity to itself–acknowledging the event and stuff from the Superman titles, but NOT forcing folks to read all of those. (Though there is an editorial note referring readers to Superman #75 prior to reading this). Jurgens seems to carry through ongoing plot threads that seem to have been going on in the title, and for lack of better phrasing, moves pieces around the board to set up the tail-end of his run on the title, getting the characters into Destiny’s Hand.

I see this issue in bargain bins far less often than random chapters from the Superman books, both of The Death of Superman and Funeral for a Friend. I’m relatively certain the copy of the issue I read this time was from a bargain bin, as I don’t believe it’s my original copy (the newsstand barcode gives that away, my original was from a comic shop and had a bleeding-S shield, I believe). While this hardly sits in a vacuum, it does seem like it can somewhat be read as a one-off. It’s an intermediary issue, bridging the pre-Doomsday run and what’s to come…giving characters’ reactions post-Death of Superman, but not yet implementing changes that would carry the League forward after the death.

I would definitely recommend this issue if you find it for a quarter or 50 cents or even $1-ish. I believe there were two editions, and apparently that carried to the newsstand as well–one version that’s just the standard cover; and another with a red and white overlay. The sole difference is really the overlay itself–present or not. The cover and interior under the overlay is the same. Either version is quite worth it, though the one with the overlay has a bit more of a visual distinction…and sits most nostalgic in my mind, as that’s what I got back in 1992.

Quite a trip down memory lane, and has me all the more eager to get around to actually READING the Superman and Justice League America vol. 1 and (once I acquire it) vol. 2.

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